Friday, May 16, 2014

PS+ Free Games So Far, PS4

If you have a PS4 and want to play online multiplayer, you'll need to pay for a PS+ subscription. This was one of the announcements that was quietly snuck into the Playstation victory lap last E3, when Microsoft couldn't do much of anything right, and this announcement went mostly unnoticed in the din. Since Killzone: Shadowfall was one of the launch games I intended to pick up (dire single player campaign, but the multiplayer was really well-done) I dropped the money on the PS+ subscription without really thinking about it. Now I can't imagine doing without it -- getting a game or two for free every month is a pretty great way to feel good about the PS+ experience. Here are my impressions of the games that have been offered for PS4 thus far.

Resogun - A video of this game convinced me I had to have a PS4, so you're welcome to guess how I feel about it! A side-scrolling cylindrical shmup inspired by Defender, where you have to Save The Last Humans? Yes, please! It could have used more variety in the levels, which all share the industrial/city sort of look, but this is a very slick game. Voxels, voxels everywhere!

Contrast - There are some neat ideas in this early 1900s shadow-manipulation puzzle adventure, but sometimes the platforming feels a little finicky and I ran into a couple bugs that blocked my progress. It's worth a play for the stylish look and the atmosphere (and a Limbo-inspired section about halfway through), but there's not a lot to come back to once you've played through once.

It's all about manipulating the shadows to reach higher places, like this one.
Don't Starve - An inventory management survival game with the atmosphere of an Edward Gorey illustration. I really like this sort of game, since it's all about managing your resources and paying attention to the clock; you don't want to be stuck away from your fire/home when night falls. My only dissatisfaction with this one is that the opening exploration of the island generally seems to go much the same, without a great deal of variety. I find myself doing mostly the same things and experiencing the same difficulties for a pretty long stretch in the beginning, which means that it can start feeling awfully samey, and keeps me from wanting to start new games as often as I usually would in a game like this.

Outlast - You're an investigative reporter who has received a tip about unpleasant goings-on at the Mount Massive Asylum, and before you know it you're trapped in the place and being hunted by lunatics. It's scary, and tense, and just an awesome experience. This was one of the great PS+ surprises for me -- it wasn't even on my radar beforehand. You have no combat skills, so you need to sneak around in the dark, using the night-vision on your camcorder to see and to avoid the lunatics loose in the asylum. You're also collecting documents and recordings as you go, which builds up the story and gives you a peek inside your character's thoughts. During one amazing sequence outside the walls of the asylum, during a lightning storm, you see a quick flash of *something* in whose existence your character has been doubting, and the document you get has one line: 'God help me. I think I've just seen the Walrider.' Chills! And two thumbs way up. I need to buy the new DLC for this, Whistleblower.

Dead Nation - Didn't really like this one that much. It's a zombie game with a Smash TV feel, but the characters are so tiny and the lighting is so dark that it didn't do much for me. I only played the first couple levels; maybe it gets better later on, or it's preferable to play in co-op.

Mercenary Kings - This game looks like one thing (Metal Slug or Contra) but is actually another thing (Monster Hunter). I've never played Monster Hunter before, but it apparently involves selecting missions to go defeat monsters and grabbing items that you can use to craft weapons that allow you to defeat bigger monsters. That's what Mercenary Kings is too, which seems to be off-putting to people expecting a 2D action game like Metal Slug. The time limit on every mission, the way bosses will run away and appear in another spot in the level after you do a little bit of damage, the way the missions seem to mostly involve grinding for loot drops... these are all design decisions that ramp up the frustration at the expense of the fun. Still, though, I'm having a reasonably good time with it. The key is to only play a mission or two at a time; short play sessions allow you to maximize the fun and keep the repetitive annoyances to a minimum.

It sure looks gorgeous, though!

Stick It To The Man - I didn't think they still made games like this! This is another of the big surprises of PS+, and not a game I expected at all. Reminiscent of classic LucasArts point-and-click adventure games like Day of the Tentacle, in this one you control a guy named Ray who has a pink spaghetti grabber hand coming out of his head -- he can use the hand to peel stickers out of the environment and stick them onto people or things to solve puzzles, and he can also use it to read people's minds. For example, if you need to get by a guard, you might read someone's mind and hear 'Man, I shouldn't have stayed up all night eating burritos! I'm so tired!' That makes a thought bubble with Z...Z...Z... appear over his head, which you can grab, and then you can stick the Z...Z...Z... sticker onto someone else's head to make them fall asleep. It's clever, and funny, and all around I had a blast. A great game!

Memorable characters and funny situations. Also: a cool sticker book art style!
I think the lesson here is that while an individual game may not be to your taste, the net effect of the experience is overall very positive thanks to the variety of the offered games. Just looking at the list up there, you've got two arcade shooters, two quirky adventure/puzzle games, a Rogue-like adventure game, a horror game, and a Monster Hunter-style grinding game. I might have only purchased one or two of these sight-unseen, but most of these proved to be genuinely worthwhile games that I'm very glad I got to experience. Maybe not Dead Nation. I might give it more of a try and see if I can find more of the fun; and if I do and I do you'll probably hear about it. :)

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